Throughout the year, whenever you pick up a sandwich away from home, there is a good chance you have Bimbo Bakehouse to thank for your bread.
The American foodservice industry goes through a tremendous amount of bread every year. Foodservice is a key component of America’s national economy. In 2019, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS), the share of food eaten at home was 45.2 percent, and food away from home was 54.8 percent. In a typical year, revenue across the U.S. foodservice industry approaches $1 trillion in sales, hitting $969.4 billion in 2019, per USDA-ERS.
Bimbo Bakehouse, based in Horsham, PA, is the foodservice business for Bimbo Bakeries USA, part of Grupo Bimbo, the largest bakery company in the world, with distribution in 33 countries. Bimbo Bakehouse offers a comprehensive range of frozen and fresh bread and other bakery products to U.S. restaurants and other foodservice operations, as well as the in-store bakery (ISB). The business leverages its wide range of trusted Grupo Bimbo brands, as well as customized solutions, to meet ongoing U.S. industry needs.
While the Bimbo Bakehouse name is new, Grupo Bimbo, along with its American subsidiary Bimbo Bakeries USA, has a long history of baking expertise, currently holding the most-extensive organizational reach across the baking industry.
“Bimbo Bakehouse has a rich history of providing a wide variety of bakery items to both the foodservice and in-store bakery (ISB) channels,” says Donovan Clark, category manager, frozen in-store bakery. “The company is a combination of the frozen bakery business that was acquired from Wholesome Harvest Baking, Inc. in 2014 and the fresh bakery business of Bimbo Bakeries USA.”
Grupo Bimbo got its start in Mexico in 1945, but the American chapter of this story begins in 1994 when Grupo Bimbo purchased La Hacienda, a California-based tortilla company. The company then entered the U.S. bread market in 1997 with the acquisition of Pacific Pride Bakeries of San Diego. The company grew again in 1998 with the purchase of Mrs Baird’s Bakeries in Texas, which at the time was the largest family-owned bakery in the U.S. The combined operations were renamed Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU).
In 2002, BBU acquired the western U.S. baking business of George Weston Ltd., adding such iconic premium brands as Oroweat®, Entenmann’s®, Thomas®’, and Boboli®. In 2009, Grupo Bimbo purchased the remaining U.S. fresh baked goods business from George Weston, adding the Arnold®, Brownberry®, Freihofer’s®, and Stroehmann® brands.
In 2011, BBU completed its largest acquisition to date: Sara Lee’s North American fresh bakery business. “Adding Sara Lee’s bread business doubled BBU in size, enabling us to better deliver on our mission, vision and values,” says Clark.
Then, in 2014, BBU acquired Wholesome Harvest Baking, Inc., a frozen bakery business that is now part of Bimbo Bakehouse. “Only our name has changed, and Wholesome Harvest remains a powerful frozen bakery brand among our ISB portfolio,” says Clark.
Bimbo Bakehouse also works in conjunction with sister company Bimbo QSR (formerly Chicago’s East Balt Bakeries), which is dedicated to the global quick-service restaurant (QSR) channel.
Today, Bimbo Bakehouse has 62 manufacturing plants within its distribution system, including facilities dedicated to:
- Traditional fresh bread products like breads, buns, and English muffins
- Artisan bakery products like artisan, crusty, hearth-based breads and buns, as well as pretzel buns/rolls and croissants)
- Sweet baked goods
Dana Strain, marketing manager, frozen foodservice, notes BBU is the only commercial bakery that serves all 50 U.S. states.
“Our subsidiary benefits from shared internal services, as well as an overall knowledge transfer between organizations (Grupo Bimbo, Bimbo Bakeries USA, Bimbo QSR and Bimbo Bakehouse),” says Strain. “The idea that we freely share new trends, best practices, and innovation is a daily practice. We are all led and driven by our company purpose of ‘Nourishing a Better World.’ That allows us to continue as the world’s leading baking company by adopting new ways of working and doing things. Grupo Bimbo’s scale allows us to gather and share insights across multiple countries, markets, and consumer channels.”
Efficient and lean
BBU continues to provide industry leadership in making improvements to production facility efficiency and reducing overall environmental impact.
“BBU is an ENERGY STAR partner,” says Leslie Adebayo, manager region environmental sustainability. “All of the Bimbo Bakehouse bakeries are registered active participants in the ‘Challenge for Industry’ (energy reduction of at least 10 percent in 5 years or less) as well as the Certification Program, which ranks bakeries in the industry. The San Luis Obispo bakery has been certified five years in a row, putting it in the top 25 percent of bakeries for energy efficiency nationally.”
Adebayo notes BBU bakeries incorporate the latest power and energy savings technologies, including upgrades to LED lighting and high-efficiency motors. “These upgrades help reduce power consumption in the bakeries dramatically.”
BBU and Bimbo Bakehouse is committed to the goal of reducing waste by 50 percent by 2030, says Adebayo. “To that end, all the Bimbo Bakehouse bakeries currently divert more than 90 percent of waste from landfills. The culture within Bimbo Bakehouse lends itself to efficiency, as well as lean manufacturing: focusing on best practices that reduce or eliminate waste, adhering to best practices that improve baking processes, and making sure that products meet all standards of quality. This is done through a series of trainings and evaluations we’ve dubbed ‘Manufacturing Transformation.’”
An extensive lineup
Bimbo Bakehouse offers a truly comprehensive lineup of frozen and fresh bread and sweet baked goods for American foodservice operators and retail ISB.
Strain notes some of the most-popular types of baked goods Bimbo Bakehouse offers to the market:
- Baguettes and table breads, including bâtards, French and Italian breads, and dinner rolls
- Pretzel breads
- Sandwich breads (sliced and unsliced)
- Breakfast breads, including English muffins, bagels, sweet baked goods, croissants, turnovers, pastry bites, and sandwich buns and rolls for subs, hamburgers, hot dogs, and more
Bimbo Bakehouse brings a variety of regionally and nationally known brands to its foodservice customers. “We have a portfolio of regional bread and sweet baked good brands available via our fresh distribution system, including these leading regional brands: Mrs Bairds®, Ball Park® Buns, Heiner’s®, Stroehmann®, Freihofer’s®, Bimbo®, Entenmann’s®, Little Bites®, and Marinela ®,” says Strain, noting that some brands are only available in select regions.
While BBU has strong retail brands, the needs they address in the bread aisle can be fundamentally different than the needs of the ISB, notes Clark. “Bimbo Bakehouse has established brands that are mindful of the unique circumstances of in-store bakeries and are positioned to be successful there. Goldminer and Wholesome Harvest Baking products are flavorful and offer consumers a unique eating experience that is differentiated from products within the Bimbo Bakeries USA brand portfolio.”
Clark notes that Goldminer® is Bimbo Bakehouse’s largest brand exclusive to U.S. retail ISB. The line consists of 24-hour, slow-crafted® sourdough breads made with a traditional sourdough starter and baked to a golden chewy crust and rich, soft interior, she says. These naturally fermented breads have a delicate, tangy flavor. They’re made without artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and are Non-GMO Project Verified. The line is available in a variety of formats, including sandwich loaves, boules, rolls, and specialty breads.
Bimbo Bakehouse finds its inspiration in a number of different ways, notes Derek Robertson, senior director, product development. “There are so many new dynamic bakery products evolving in our category,” he says. “Our team takes the time to review what’s trending through social media, food blogs, and industry publications. They also use food tours to explore trending and up-and-coming bakeries. In addition, we continuously review market trends with our marketing team and share knowledge with our global Innovation and marketing teams. We work in partnership with our suppliers, keeping on trend with the popular new products that they are seeing as well as new ingredient possibilities to ensure we are always evolving.”
Heather Davis, consumer insights manager, shares three key trends in foodservice and ISB:
- Healthy and better-for-you
- Comfort food
- Off-premise dining and grab-and-go
“Consumers are seeking healthy and ‘better-for-you’ items,” says Davis. “This was a trend before COVID-19, but the pandemic has reinforced the desire for immunity-boosting foods.” She points to information from Datassential, Chicago, presented in May 2020, that found 35 percent of consumers say leading a healthy lifestyle has become more important than when the pandemic began. Also, in its coverage of 2021 trends, Datassential found 58 percent of consumers are looking forward to seeing more healthful eating trends in the coming year. “Operators have been adding healthier options to their menus,” she says, citing Datassential MenuTrends data showing the use of multigrain sandwich carriers has grown 15 percent on menus over the past four years. “Within ISB, consumers are looking for products without additives or preservatives, GMO-free, or organic options,” she says.
Comfort is also tracking well with consumers of late. “Consumers crave the foods that bring them comfort, especially in times of crisis, as has been in the case over the past year,” says Davis. She notes Datassential has found 57 percent of consumers are looking forward to seeing more comfort food trends in the coming year. “Comfort food means different things to different people,” she says. “Two in five of consumers define comfort food as something they ate growing up, so we see a lot of nostalgic items on menus.” She notes items like grilled cheese are growing on menus, with incidence on menus up 6.5 percent over the past 4 years, per Datassential MenuTrends. “Operators have elevated classic comfort foods, like burgers, by using higher-quality ingredients, such as brioche and pretzel buns.”
Operators have also grown more flexible regarding off-premise dining. “There’s no question that off-premise dining has been growing in the past year with dining room closures and consumer hesitation to dine on-premise,” says Davis. Datassential found 25 percent of operators have adjusted menus to optimize the delivery and takeout experience. She cites an example of using sub and sandwich rolls that will hold up well during the transport time from restaurant to table. And this trend is not limited to commercial foodservice. “Non-commercial segments have been offering more grab-and-go options, so they might switch to sandwich rolls that are intended to hold in a refrigerated case.”
Wholesome Harvest is another Bimbo Bakehouse brand dedicated to retail ISB. The company bakes the hearty breads in this portfolio without artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. They contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving and are Non-GMO Project Verified. The line appeals to health-conscious consumers, suggests Clark.
Bimbo Bakehouse has continued to develop better-for-you options, including for school foodservice. “In 2021 we launched three new products specifically designed for the K12 segment, all of which meet creditable grain requirements and are made with whole-grain white wheat,” says Strain. “We’re currently in the process of reformulating the portfolio to meet clean-label requirements and developing new options in our product portfolio with healthy nutritional profiles.”
BBU consistently monitors the industry for trends—health-related or otherwise, notes Strain. Organizationally, the company is committed to:
- Reducing sugars, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sodium, and other nutriments with a high impact on public health
- Increasing the content of beneficial ingredients rich in nutrients, such as whole grains, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
The Tenderflake™ brand is exclusive to Canadian retail in the frozen foods section. It’s Canada’s leading brand for ready-to-bake pastry products. “Tenderflake pie shells are iconic and have been trusted for generations by home bakers,” says Dhriti Batra, category manager, frozen in-store bakery. “The brand promise of ‘flaky pastry every time’ has been honored for decades.” She notes this line of premium, convenience-oriented products have strong “homemade” appeal spanning appetizer, dessert, and other categories.
Select BBU retail brands maintain significant category market share and strength. “One of our main foodservice strategies this year is to leverage the strength of the Thomas’® brand,” says Strain. “Thomas’® is our best-selling brand in both retail and foodservice, and we believe we can build the strength of the brand both through strong, co-branding partnerships with leading national customers, as well as with the vast array of regional locations and independent restaurants.”
Over the ensuing year, foodservice operators will continue to ramping-up efforts to re-engage consumers as they progressively resume previous day-to-day patterns. “The breakfast category has struggled in the last year with fewer people commuting and low in-person attendance at work, schools, etc.,” says Strain. “As things slowly return to normalcy, there’s an opportunity for customers looking to attract new consumers in the breakfast category by leveraging the Thomas’ brand and its strength in breakfast.”
And when an off-the-shelf product won’t suffice, customized solutions can come into play. “Collaboration has always been an integral component of our business,” says Clark. “We take pride in using our expertise to develop forward-thinking concepts and working with our partners to address specific needs in their markets. What works for one of our customers doesn’t necessarily work for all of our customers, so it’s important to us that we work together to create unique product offerings that win in their respective marketplaces.”
For Bimbo Bakehouse, offering operator-led bakery product customization is about forging and building strategic relationships within the industry, says Clark. “We have a history as a contracted manufacturing partner for customers who have their own proprietary product and can develop new products through our industry-leading research and development team to meet the specifications of our customer.”
“How we work with operators really depends on their business model,” says Strain. “Because we offer both fresh and frozen foodservice options, we’re able to accommodate their needs and support them according to their specific needs.”
With frozen bakery items, notes Strain, the advantages are:
- When product is frozen on the production line, there is minimal loss of ambient shelf life—minutes or hours, not days—until the product is thawed and used by the operator, thus preserving product freshness
- By avoiding exposure to air and moisture in transit, frozen product is suited for maintaining quality and integrity throughout the logistics and handling
- The operator has the ability to thaw and use only what is needed
With fresh bakery items, the advantages are:
- Minimal inventory storage needs
- No additional labor or steps needed prior to serving (like proofing, baking, thawing, etc.)
“For retail in-store bakery, we focus on three frozen formats that help our retailers with their distinctive operational challenges and are designed to deliver the qualities consumers expect of freshly baked bread,” says Karen Murphy, senior director and general manager, frozen in-store bakery:
- Parbaked solutions—products that are baked 90 percent and are baked off in store
- Thaw-and-sell solutions—fully packaged products that the retailer simply lets thaw and then puts them on shelf, low-labor solutions that typically have extended shelf life beyond parbaked options, which helps the retailer with inventory and waste management
- Take-and-bake solutions—products that are baked 95 percent and then fully packaged, subsequently thawed by the retailer and merchandised for sale to shoppers who finish baking the product at home
“Bimbo Bakehouse has a strong understanding of restaurant operations and can navigate and simplify back-of-house systems by providing the right solution,” says Strain. “With in-depth category knowledge and insight, we provide custom solutions for retailers and foodservice operators with specific needs. We work in partnership with our customer on all aspects of restaurant operations by using on-site visits, customer data analysis, and established industry trends. It starts with our dedicated sales team, who have experience servicing all channels and verticals within retail & foodservice channels. We have a knowledgeable and talented R&D team that includes a culinary innovation manager. They pair experience, inspiration, and trends to form culinary and menu recommendations. Then comes the support of our marketing team, who partner new flavor, culinary and menu recommendations with fact-based selling, with help from our customer insights team.”
“We believe the most valuable relationships with our customers are ones that go beyond the commodity transaction, wherein we engage our culinary team and help the customer achieve their strategic goals,” says Ted Swain, marketing director, foodservice.
“In late 2018, we had the opportunity to initiate a strategic innovation session and culinary demonstration with one of our largest national customers,” says Swain. “Ahead of this session, they shared their internal goals, which we reviewed and shared back the understanding of how different parts of our portfolio could help achieve those objectives. In the joint innovation session, we prepared and demonstrated 10 new product ideas across multiple dayparts utilizing ingredients in their pantry in a new way, thanks to the range of sandwich carriers in our portfolio. The result was that we were awarded a 12-week, national LTO in one of the largest restaurant chains in the country in 2019 that proved to be mutually beneficial to us and the customer.”
In retail ISB, every opportunity to talk innovation with one a retailer partner is a unique experience, says Clark. “There are numerous ways the retail market can be segmented. It’s important for us to tap into each segment’s unique needs, leverage our creativity and experience, and develop solutions with which our retailers can win. This has included altering our branded portfolio to be more in line with retail bakery operational challenges or reviewing capabilities and investing in our bakeries to give us better opportunities to service consumer needs.”
AT A GLANCE
Company: Bimbo Bakehouse
Headquarters: Horsham, PA
Total number of employees: 1,000
Products: Artisan breads and rolls, bagels, English muffins, dinner rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, sandwich and panini breads, sandwich and sub rolls, specialty breads and buns
Brands: Thomas’®, Sara Lee®, Boboli®, Wholesome Harvest Baking®, Goldminer®, Tenderflake®, Arnold®/Brownberry®/Oroweat®, Grace Baking®, Ball Park®, Entenmann’s®, Little Bites®, Bimbo®, Marinela®, Bays®, Lenders®, The Cheesecake Factory At Home
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Foodservice & In-Store Bakery: Vince Melchiorre
Vice President, Food Service: Donald Hornish
Senior Director and General Manager, Frozen In-Store Bakery: Karen Murphy
Senior Director and General Manager, Frozen Foodservice: Jim Morris
Marketing Director, Foodservice: Ted Swain
Category Manager, Frozen In-Store Bakery: Donovan Clark
Category Manager, Frozen In-Store Bakery: Dhriti Batra
Marketing Manager, Frozen Foodservice: Dana Strain
Consumer Insights Manager: Heather Davis
Manager Region Environmental Sustainability: Leslie Adebayo
Senior Director, Product Development: Derek Robertson
Director Sales Food Service: Glenn Stewart
Director of Distributor Development: Michael Finelli